Click to enlargeJapanese Sour Plum Tree

Prunus mume. Hailing from China's Yangtze River Valley, Prunus mume has been an indispensable part of East Asian culture since the Tang dynasty. Its early winter blooms earned it a place among China's Three Friends of Winter along with the pine and bamboo. Trees over 1,000 years old continue to bloom and produce fruit along the Yangtze River basin. After making its way eastward the species became known as the Japanese sour plum or flowering apricot. Its apricot heritage is apparent in the fruit as well as the leaves. This is the tree whose fruit, ume, you need to make umeboshi, plum vinegar and umeshu. Consider scattering Perilla seed under your sour plum tree. Itís an easy grower and provides the shiso leaves needed for pickling the ume fruit.

Blossoms burst from bare branches and float clouds of spicy fragrance over snowy ground. Staggered dormancy lengthens the blooming period by many weeks, with fruit forming before the last flower buds open. By early summer, fruit ripens and is ready for pickling and drying. Like olives, sour plums require processing to become edible.

Given the early and extended bloom season, crops are susceptible to late frosts. Consider this element when placing your tree. An area protected from late frosts will enhance fruit production. Prunus mume is adaptable to container culture, so some gardeners plant the tree in large pots that can be moved to avoid damage from late season frosts.

Its native habitat is riparian, so Prunus mume thrives in similar conditions. Full sun to filtered light, steady moisture, and good drainage required. Fairly quick growing but not an especially easy species to bring to harvest. Those who manage it in Zones 6-9 are amply rewarded by the flowers, the picturesque growth pattern of the 20í x 20í tree, and the distinct quality of the fruit. Flower buds form on year old wood, so prune after fruit harvest. Feed a balanced fertilizer throughout the growing season. Trees are grafted, so remove any growth below graft line. No specific pest or disease issues. Self-fertile, but harvest is increased by growing two cultivars.

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Prunus mume 'Kanko Bai' 1 gal
Prunus mume 'Kanko Bai' 1 gal

Prunus mume 'Kanko Bai'. Rich raspberry pink blossoms bring in the New Year and perfume a city block with clouds of clove fragrance. The red tinted foliage shows its apricot heritage along with the orange fruit that ripen early. Self-fertile but bigger harvest with another variety nearby to act as pollenizer. 'Kanko Bai' produces the classic ume fruit, round and tinged with apricot. Plants as of February 2021 are about 2' tall, thin caliper, dormant. Grown in 1 gal pots. OUT OF STOCK.

Prunus mume 'Kanko Bai' 2 gal
Prunus mume 'Kanko Bai' 2 gal

Prunus mume 'Kanko Bai' 2 gal. A more established version of the smaller tree, above. Trees as of November 2020 have well-established rootball, 3' tall, dormant. OUT OF STOCK.

Prunus mume 'Bungo' 2 gal
Prunus mume 'Bungo' 2 gal

Prunus mume 'Bungo' is named for the historic Japanese province where it became the primary cultivar. The pale pink flowers give off a strong perfume that smells like freshly baked snickerdoodle cookies. Large fruit is generally harvested when green. Light green leaves that resemble apricot foliage. Plants as of November 2019 are well-developed, pruned to 4' tall, going dormant. Grown in 2 gal containers. OUT OF STOCK.


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